I’ve Got Admin Permissions–Now What? (Part 3)
It’s time to wrap up this series on what to do when you’ve found yourself with system administrator privileges and are trying to figure out next steps with a little discussion about certifications. For people actively trying to break into Salesforce as a career, getting a certification is often an early step. But if you’ve fallen into your Salesforce journey and have a spot at a nonprofit that you’re enjoying, there’s really no reason to race toward certification, in my opinion. But it’s a good idea to have certs on your radar and start thinking about studying for the main gatekeeper cert: Administrator.
Here’s the dirty little secret, though: The Admin Cert focuses a large percentage on features and concepts that you just aren’t going to use that much in the nonprofit context. So if you’ve had admin permissions for a while and have started doing more and more work on Salesforce in its own right in the context of your nonprofit position, you’ll find that the material on the admin cert might not seem directly relevant. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn it and that you won’t find it helpful, but it isn’t going to reflect your day-to-day. If you’ve learned to manage users, create custom fields, and work with reports (all things you can learn on Trailhead) you know more than enough to answer the admin cert questions on these topics and you probably even have some practice that helps solidify that knowledge. What you probably don’t know about are things like who sees what and governor limits.
That being said, I think you should consider Admin your first certification goal because it’s the one that most people know, understand, and–perhaps most importantly–respect. Salesforce Certified Administrator is a difficult exam. First of all, the material is technical and most of it will be new ground you haven’t really covered. Also the questions (or, really, the answers) are structured differently than multiple-choice tests you’ve taken in the past. A lot of them ask for which 2 or 3 answers are correct, rather than you having to find only the one plausible answer among those given. I failed the admin cert exam the first time I took it. (As have many others.)
I strongly recommend having a basis of good, hands-on experience built up over months or years, plus some focused studying. (I used Focus on Force and Salesforce Ben for some courses and practice exams.) Amplify also has study groups that are a terrific resource. That first exam is going to be a challenge, but it will give you a foundation to really feel like you know your stuff and are ready for deeper Salesforce involvement. In the process of earning the Certified Administrator credential you’re going to learn things about the platform that will inform the work you’re doing. You’ll know more about why reports and dashboards work how they do, what design/architecture choices have been made for your current system, and what you can and can’t easily do to make changes to your instance.
There are probably two other certs that have caught your eye on that link above:
Platform App Builder - I think of App Builder very similar to the admin cert, though it’s definitely less difficult. App Builder is also an entry-level exam, but it doesn’t serve as a prerequisite for other exams like Admin does. Take Admin first, then I bet you can pass App builder with little additional study–it’ll be material you’ve got well in hand. The content of App Builder is more focused on (Surprise!) building apps on Salesforce and less on the technical underpinnings of the platform itself, such as privacy/visibility and governor limits. I’m sure there are lots of people that would recommend this as a first certification and I can’t really argue with them. I just think if you’re already working with Salesforce and are going to take the time to study for a first cert, I vote Admin. While putting App Builder on a resúmé might help you get a job, I haven’t seen too many job posting that ask for an App Builder certification.
Nonprofit Cloud Consultant (or Education Cloud Consultant) - Naturally, if you’re coming to Salesforce from a nonprofit/education perspective, these make some degree of sense. But these are consultant-focused exams, rather than user/admin focused. Questions focus on considerations around building a new implementation, for example, rather than the kinds of work you do to support and modify an existing instance. There is a lot of common sense to figuring out the answers (though you also need to know features and terms of NPSP and EDA), but the real benefit of having one of these is going to come if you’re looking for a consulting job. There’s nothing wrong with getting one (or both) of these certifications, but I don’t think they’re going to be as helpful in doing your current job as Admin or App Builder will be.
You can do this!
First Installment: Get on Trailhead
Part Two: Engage in the Community